Should you run your laptop with the lid closed?

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If you are using your laptop with an external display clipped to a desk, we recommend running it with the lid closed to save space. However, your laptop wasn’t designed to work fully tilted with a closed lid, right?

It depends on the laptop

The main concern when using a laptop with the lid closed is not getting adequate cooling. However, whether this is true largely depends on the specific laptop cooling design. If we’re talking about fanless, low-power MacBook Air M1 or M2 computers, it’s perfectly fine to run them this way. You can even purchase specialty media designed exactly for this use case.

Twelve South BookArc for MacBook

When you don’t need your MacBook screen on your desk and want to save as much space as possible, BookArc is an elegant solution for your MacBook Life hot-desk.

On the other hand, if you have a gaming workstation or laptop, there’s a good chance that the top deck of the laptop plays a role in the ventilation. If you close the lid, it can affect the air flow. Some laptops are designed to lift the bottom of the laptop off the desk surface when the screen opens. With this type of design, running the system with the lid closed is not a good idea.

Close-up of the back corner of a gaming laptop with the vents visible.
Vents on a gaming laptop. KanishK Gupta /

If you are unsure, check with the manufacturer if they agree to operate the system under load with the lid closed.

Heat can (theoretically) damage LCDs

While your laptop can adequately cool the CPU and GPU with the lid closed, another consideration is whether the LCD panel could be damaged if it is placed near the hot body of the laptop during operation.

Like any electronic device, LCD panels have a maximum safe operating temperature. The exact numbers differ from device to device but are typically between 40 ° C and 60 ° C, based on the specs we’ve read. Since a closed laptop screen traps a layer of air between itself and the body of the laptop, it is conceivable that the temperature in that space could reach the point where it affects the life of the liquid crystal or the coating of the screen.

Of course, it’s hard to say conclusively that the heat from your high-performance laptop will damage the laptop’s LCD in both the short and long term. However, it makes sense that subjecting an LCD to temperatures outside the ambient temperature range for which it was designed is a bad idea.

What about the cooling plates?

Cooling pads are popular as laptop stands with built-in cooling fans and vents. The idea is that they remove heat from the laptop through the vents and the body so that the internal fans don’t have to work as hard.

In theory, this isn’t a bad idea, but a lot depends on your laptop’s exact cooling design and cooling pad. Again, the cooling pads offer relatively small temperature drops and do not help directly cool the space between the screen and the laptop body.

Run your laptop overnight or as a server

Some users aren’t trying to run a laptop with the lid closed while connected to an external display. For example, you could use your old laptop as an internal server or leave a rendering process or download to run overnight.

Assuming you are made sure the vents are not blocked (and allowed to run while the lid is closed), you can leave the laptop running with the lid closed if it is only doing medium or low intensity work that they won’t heat it up much

However, you can go halfway and close the lid just enough to turn off the screen, but not enough to close the laptop completely. As long as the hot air is not discharged directly to the screen, it should work indefinitely. However, it won’t do much to keep dust out, so be prepared to clean your laptop regularly.

Is it really a problem?

If your laptop overheats or throttles its performance when you have the lid closed, this is clearly an issue and you should strongly consider opening the lid to prevent this from happening. If you are primarily concerned that heat exposure will ruin your laptop screen, there is no clear evidence that we might find this to be the case. Anecdotally we have used laptops with closed lids for years and have never encountered a display failure that could be directly related to heat. That said, it is impossible to rule it out entirely.

Ultimately, the only safe option is to run the laptop with the lid open. Also, this offers a second screen if you are using an external monitor, which is almost always more useful than just one display. Plus, running your laptop with the lid closed has serious aesthetic and space-saving benefits, so the trade-off depends on how much you value form over function or what specific job you need to do from your laptop.

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